Having Independent councillors, free from the party whip and putting residents first and foremost influences the council in many ways including in its culture, but these examples below are just a few of the impacts Our West Lancashire’s presence achieves in the council chamber.
One councillor, one vote will be introduced at West Lancashire Borough Council in 2024. Currently, a small group of 8 councillors from Skelmersdale and Ormskirk take most of the important decisions under the Cabinet system. Our West Lancashire initiated the process of change with a motion to council in December 2021.
Under the current system, 46 out of the 54 councillors have no vote on most of the important decisions the council makes. Instead, the 8-councillor cabinet can allocate millions of pounds without other councillors having a vote. There are no councillors from Burscough or the rural villages at the cabinet table and a perspective from the whole Borough is lacking.
Thanks to Our West Lancashire, it will be one councillor, one vote in future.
Enforcement cameras with the dual purpose of capturing both red light running and speeding are to be installed at the Fiveways and Hayfield Road junctions on Ormskirk’s County Road in what will be a first for this technology in Lancashire. The junctions have a long history of serious accidents and red light jumping has been a significant factor.
OWL have long thought it unjust that residents should have to pay for replacement waste bins which have been damaged by the council during bin emptying, so we were delighted that other parties accepted our arguments and included the OWL proposal into the 2022 council budget.
Now, thanks to OWL, residents whose bin is damaged during emptying can receive a replacement bin free of charge.
In January 2022 the Labour-led Council abandoned plans to sell public open space on Farrington Drive in Ormskirk for housebuilding to their own Development Company after sustained questioning by Our West Lancashire.
The proposals had been kept from most councillors for months and when they were revealed councillors were not allowed to let the public know. It took a motion from OWL at a committee meeting to make the information public.
Meanwhile OWL research identified the green space as of high value and we pointed out that the council’s own assessment showed there was a shortage of green space in Ormskirk.
Jane Thompson contacted the council tree officer who agreed that the mature trees on the site were worthy of protection. Finally Labour dropped the plans.
In November 2021 the Council started trialling mobile CCTV to combat fly tipping. Our West Lancashire had included the proposal in our alternative Council budget in February and liaised closely with council officers following that.
The Council is now planning to purchase an additional 6 camera sets after promising results from the early trials which saw flytipping incidents reduce by 43%.
Our West Lancashire proposed a policy to reduce the number of councillors on West Lancashire Borough Council from its current number of 54. Swiftly, the West Lancashire Labour Party adopted OWL’s policy. Despite Labour press releases to the contrary, OWL Cllr Adrian Owens seconded the Labour motion. “It was quite an unusual feeling” the veteran Councillor said.
The OWLs councillors led the pressure on the ruling Labour group at the council when they proposed to charge blue box users for a new bin. It had been proposed that anyone who had chosen to keep their blue box back in 2013 would be forced to take a new wheelie bin, at a charge of £25. OWLs led a concerted effort, pointing out how it was an unjust move against residents. The pressure on the ruling Labour group resulted in a U-turn on the unfair plans to charge blue box users for a blue bin, and refund was given to all who had already paid.
As far back as the start of 2015 OWLs has campaigned for WLBC to invest in retail units in the town. Councillor Ian Davis has been a strong proponent of the policy drawing on his wealth of experience as a Financial Director in the private sector. By becoming a landlord in the town the council could bring a better retail mix, and produce a good return on their investment. In May 2016 the council completed the purchase of the 15 retails units that make up Wheatsheaf Walks, a move warmly welcomed by OWLs.
At Our West Lancashire, we believe that true democracy should be transparent. That’s why in July 2016 Councillor Adrian Owens tabled a motion to publish councillor attendance records. The change came about in short order, and by August of the same year West Lancashire Borough Council began publishing the record of who had attended meetings. You can view the attendance league table for 2021/22 on our Information page.
January 2017 saw a secret cabinet meeting by the local Labour party. They agreed to have discussions with a private company to install Automated Number Plate Recognition cameras at Ormskirk car parks. OWL organised a petition that gathered over 300 signatures in oppostion to the proposal. By July, the council portfolio holder announced they had abandoned the talks with the private company. A great success for OWL, working with the community to voice their views!
A report commissioned by WLBC in 2015 threatened the future of Park Pool in Ormskirk. OWL strongly believes in safeguarding such an integral community asset, and when the report was ready to be voted on at a council meeting in October we jumped into action. A petition was gathered with over one thousand signatures in a matter of days. The pressure exerted led to the leaders of both political parties on the council confirming they would not support any plans for a closure of Park Pool.
OWL has always prioritised finding cost reductions through efficiencies rather than cutting vital front line services. Indeed, it was one of the first policies announced when the OWL grouping was founded! As WLBC came under pressure from central government cuts, we pushed our proposal to reduce the number of Managing Directors from two to one. Our policy was eventually implemented in October 2015, along with a raft of other structural changes in the management at the council.
Proudly advocating democracy and transparency, in April 2015 Councillor Adrian Owens called for the public to be able to as questions at council meetings. A lesser motion was adopted, and he made an open offer to ask questions directly on behalf of residents. After months working through the council it was voted on, and passed in December’s council meeting. It is now indeed part of council procedures that the public can apply to ask questions. If you would like to take advantage of this right, you can find more information here.
Councillor Adrian Owens asked a question on behalf of a Westhead resident regarding the recycling of different materials. The thrust of the issue was that WLBC did not publicise that aluminium products could now go into blue bins and boxes. Very quickly the council started to issue stickers for the different bins used in the area. This has helped raise awareness of exactly what can go into each bin, including the items raised on behalf of the environmentally aware resident who contacted Adrian.
During the council meeting of March 2016, Councillor Adrian Owens tabled a motion to improve notifications processes to local residents about planning applications. In meeting it came as surprise to be told that there is an online portal available where West Lancs residents can be notified of any planning applications for where they register an interest. OWL quickly took on the task of publicising the database and has helped numerous concerned residents register on the system.